When dance and science meet: Karine Rathle at TEDxLSE 2013

When dance and science meet: Karine Rathle at TEDxLSE 2013


Translator: Robert Tucker
Reviewer: Ariana Bleau Lugo Hi!
Anybody knows what dance science is? No, I thought so. So, before introducing
my research project, which is in the field of dance science, I sort of decided that
it might be a good idea to give you a little introduction
of what is dance science. First you see these two dancers,
one of them has a big mask on its face. She’s performing for the purpose
of scientific research that involves
dancers and their fitness. So, what is dance science?
It’s a field of research that takes everything
from exercise and sport science and tries to see
if that can apply to dancers. It’s very recent, so, basically all the
research coming out at Master’s level are all innovative. We don’t have a choice,
there’s not much done, so whatever we do
we have to figure out a way of doing it ourselves. It is a multi-disciplinary field,
it is impossible to do everything, look at the body,
look at the art, and not involve every single field
that is involved in the human body. So, we look at neuroscience, anatomy,
physiology, psychology, somatics, but we also have to look at the art, so dance, anything that has
to do with arts and the body. Why do we need all this? First of all,
dancers get injured all the time. Dancers get injured
more than football players, and for longer. 90% of dancers will get injured
within one year’s time. So, from now until next year,
we’ll have 90% of all dancers in the UK having an injury. So, we need to understand what happens, why are they getting injured,
and how can we make them better. And how can we, not just
prevent injury, but as well care for the [injuries] once they occur. But is it all about injuries only? No. It’s also about: How can
dance help everybody else? So, I just did a workshop on:
How can dance help in understanding
our social perception of the world? And it went really well. People saw that communication
can come out of just plain movement, and how our bodies interact
with one another without any words. Really interesting how dance
can change our perception of thinking, so it can involve sociology,
it can involve anthropology, and get us to think outside the box. So then for health, there is
a lot of research that’s been done with dancers and Parkinson and dance and how can tango
help with Alzheimer patients. And that was really interesting research showing that, actually,
if they learn to dance tango, they’re making decision,
they’re using that part of the brain that’s going weaker. And we can make sure
that Alzheimer doesn’t fade that part of the brain too quickly. So, we found that dance has
a lot of benefits for other people, and all that because
dance science existed. So, it does benefit everybody
and everybody, but dancers in general, tend to not read a lot of the research. So, there’s a lot of work
still to be done in our field, in disseminating that research. So, what we’re doing
right now in our field is mainly looking at: How can we screen
dancers and make them better? So, we came up with
a lot of different assessments that help us look at dancers
in a different way, and these are all things
that are taken from exercise science. And then we came up with other things
that are more about dancers. Dancers need to be flexible,
they need to be strong, and they also need a lot of coordination, so we come up with
a lot of different ways to measure, to see if
an intervention works better, if our training is appropriate for them, and a lot of different aspects of dance. We also developed a fitness test. So, normally that fitness test
is done while we run. Dancers don’t really like to run. We like to dance.
Running is really not our thing. So, if you’re going to assess our fitness,
please do not assess it through running. We can’t run.
Put shoes on our feet and we’re like (Pain groan)
and we look incredibly foolish. I don’t why, but it’s a generalization,
but most dancers don’t run very well. So, they came up with this 5 stage that takes exactly the same science behind the actual fitness test,
aerobic fitness test, that’s done in sports. But this one is all dance
from A to Z. There’s one in contemporary,
one in ballet. So, different genres of dance
can have their own test. So, I’ve talked already about
the kind of research that’s coming out. But also I’d like to talk
to you about my research. What I’ve talked to you about
was a lot of these scientific research going from pure science.
When I started my Master’s degree, I had no idea what dance science was. That’s why I decided
to introduce it to you, because, if me as a dancer,
I had no idea what that field was about, even when I started
my degree, I was like… Oh! Okay, so I’m going to do psychology.
Why am I doing psychology again? I understood everything
just by doing the degree and reading more of the research,
which most people don’t know about. But my research ended up being not
about the physiology of the dancers, but: Why do we look at dance? Because we want to observe
a dancer and enjoy? There’s a lot of artistry involved,
it’s not just about how high the leg is, Okay, beautiful. She can kick? Yeah.
She can do the splits? Great. But really, why do we look at art?
Because it makes us feel something. So, what my interest was,
was mainly on stage presence. How can we work
for dancers’ stage presence? So, who thinks here that stage presence is
something you either have it or you don’t? Don’t be shy. Okay. And who thinks that you can learn
stage presence, you can be taught? Lot more advanced than
a lot of the people I’ve interviewed. I had so many people telling me that, ‘Na, it’s like talent,
either you have it or you don’t.’ Okay. As a dance teacher,
I really don’t want people telling me I can’t teach something,
that I don’t want to lose my job, really. So, what I’m going be doing is looking at
what am I doing as a teacher that helps these students
be more present on stage. But before that,
what is stage presence? So that’s the first question
my supervisor asked me and I said, ‘Right, there’s a lot of definitions,
but mainly I’m going to ask my dancers and my panel members
what they think stage presence is.’ Really very simple,
there’s this definition, my definition is: What makes us look
at somebody on stage and not stop looking? So, if I’m going to be
watching somebody dance, what is making me not think
of something else? That’s stage presence. It’s actually a lot simpler than we try
to philosophically think about it. How am I going to enhance stage presence?
I’ve used a field called somatics. Somatics is a field that looks
at the body as a whole. So, I can look at flexibility,
I can look at little aspects, but somatics looks
at the body and the dancer, body and mind as a whole. So, all different somatic techniques come from, I would say,
the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, there’s all these people
that created new techniques of raising body awareness,
being straighter, posture. You might know the Alexander Technique,
that’s one of the somatics techniques, Feldenkrais one of
the somatics techniques. But I wasn’t interested in the techniques
per se, I was interested in what they do. So, I looked at what the principles were, and if I was actually already
using that in my teaching. I came up with four different things
that I’m going be using in this study. I came up that breath is important. How many of you can live
without breathing? Yeah. I didn’t think so. A lot of dancers think they can go through a whole dance without breathing,
I don’t know how they do it. Don’t know how I did it
when I was training ballet. I used to stop breathing
for about 50 minutes of my class, and then I would take
one deep breath and then go on. Probably scared of the teacher
and being kicked, but that being said, yes,
breathing is important. Body awareness. Can you feel
how your feet are on the floor? What are you doing
with your left hand? Yeah, we don’t think a lot about every
body part and where it is in space, but that’s quite important for dancers. I would say it’s important for everybody
to have body awareness, but dancers especially. They use their body as their tool,
so it is quite important. So body awareness, breath,
and I’ve used tools such as imagery, constructive rest, and touch. Today, instead of telling you
the results and everything, I’m just going to tell you:
What is stage presence, how can I enhance it.
If I’m enhancing their confidence, they’re going to have
a better stage presence. If I enhance their body awareness, they’re going to have
a better stage presence. These are quotes from the dancers
that were on the project with me. And I’ve decided today, I could have brought some other dancers
at the project with me, but instead I decided to demonstrate what I did in my [introduction]
just in front of you. So, I’m going to pull up
the carpet that you saw, that didn’t really want to be rolled. So, I’m going to roll it again,
and while I’m doing that Karina is going to demonstrate
a little piece that I’ve created. It’s really very short. And then I’m going to give
her some instruction and see if that changes the piece. So we’re going to put some music on and going to leave you
with the last quote — yeah, perfect — [“I feel like I am so much more
of a dancer with this work.”] So, if you can put the music on, and she’s going to demonstrate
just a simple phrase. (Electronic percussion sounds) Okay, thank you. So, what I’m going to ask Karina:
Can you do the whole phrase? This time, if you can, instead of thinking
of where the movement is, you’re going to just go
through it without music, and think, are you breathing in or out? And decide for yourself,
is breathing in better for each movement, or breathing out is better
for each movement? So, go ahead.
So, while she’s doing that, she’s also concentrating
on her whole body, instead of just a single movement. She will be deciding
at every point in time: Is it a breath in or a breath out? As you can see, she has also
slowed it down, because her mind
and her muscular system need to coordinate that new information. What I would normally do is try that
with the dancers, and they would probably take a lot
longer to really assimilate the material, and decide which breath in
and breath out is going to be. So, now what I’m going to ask her is: Do you know which breath you’re taking
at every point in time? Karina: More or less. Karine: More or less.
Which one is missing? Karina: So, I exhale here.
Karine: Yep. Karina: Inhale
Karine: Yep. Karina: Exhale
Karine: Yep. Karina: Inhale, lift. Karine: Yep.
Karina: Exhale, go down. Inhale, turn, exhale, inhale, exhale. Karine: OK. Karina: More or less?
Karine: More or less. Yeah, yeah. I mean, is there a right or wrong? No, there’s what works better
for her and her body. And that’s partially what I’m taking out
of the field of somatics. Every person is different, so I need
to work with each dancer differently. But the principle is the same,
she’s keeping her breath throughout, not thinking: How high is my leg? Just thinking I’m exhaling
while I’m doing it. So, we’re just going to do it
one more time. This time I’m going
to give you little bit of imagery. So, here you’re actually getting punched. Somebody just punched you in the stomach
while you’re doing it. And, the next movement I want you to think that after this punch, you actually got an amazing idea
and you’re going to open up to that idea. And then you’re going to swing
that idea through your body, and that’s going to create that kick, that you’re going to spread
around the world. Yes. Good. Let’s just keep it simple like that. I can continue, I’m just showing you
how we can use imagery. And so we’re going to keep
these images, keep the breath. And what we’re going to do, we’re just
going to show you the whole sequence. This time she’s going to do it
two times in a row, integrating the breathing
and integrating the imagery. Karina: OK Karine: Music. (Electronic drum sounds)
Thank you. (Electronic music) Thank you. So, obviously nothing can happen
within five minutes of working with somebody.
You might have seen a difference in the way she was moving, not necessarily
an improvement or anything, but she did move differently. Did anybody see a difference
between the first time and the last time? Yeah? So, all these instructions, all they do, is change our mobility, and, by doing that, what I’m trying to get
into the dance world as well, through this scientific knowledge
of research and methodology, we can actually,
instead of thinking in dance, that we need to repeat
the same thing over and over, which leads to overuse injury, what we can do is just
rethink the way we teach, and rethink the way we rehearse direct
by introducing another field within it. Now my time’s been up
for about two minutes now, so I’m going to finish on that note. I hope you’ve learned something
from the field of dance science and dance, and thank you very much. (Applause)

2 thoughts on “When dance and science meet: Karine Rathle at TEDxLSE 2013”

  1. Wonderful presentation and topic.

    My first introduction to dance was after running with some other athletes, we would end at the Exercise Physiology Lab and I would help one the other runner, by operating the treadmill to find the V.O2max of dancers for his thesis, yes he did use running. 8 ) I was so amazed by this study and the the efforts (their presence actually) the dancers put into everything, I switched my major to Exercise Phys.

    But it took several years later, to finally figure out when and where dance concerts were held on campus, to see a concert. I was so enthralled I started taking classes.

    A side note, in the study, we did a sit and reach test with the dancers, but they had to tape a ruler on to the measuring instrument, because the dancers kept going off the scale. 8 )

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